I wrote this two days ago, but it was so full of angry ranting that I didn’t post it immediately, and then yesterday I was too ill to even get out of bed. If you were on Twitter on Tuesday, you may have seen that I posted some quite livid comments in response to an article in the Sun dated 5th January. What made the Sun piece worse was that it came on the heels of an article on the Mail Online that I had seen the day before about how Johanna Griggs was beating her CFS with exercise. I am sick of these articles about people curing their CFS with things that have been shown NOT to work for the majority of people. From what I’ve seen on social media and in forums, I am not the only one who feels this way. The implication of just these two miraculous recoveries that have been reported is that the rest of us that remain ill are lazy and eat crap. There is a lot of anger being directed at the interviewees, and yeah, like everyone else I wish they would just shut up, BUT the problem here are the reporters themselves and how they lie about CFS cure claims.
Daily Mail article on Johanna Griggs
The Daily Mail article leads with this headline ‘The chronic fatigue changed everything’: House Rules host Johanna Griggs opens up about her struggle with CFS and how she’s beating the condition. So straight away this title implies that she currently has CFS and is still in the process of beating the condition.
These are all the things that the Mail attributes to Johanna Griggs as direct quotes. It should be noted that these are taken from her interview with TV Week; the Mail Online never actually spoke to her, unless they’re affiliated with TV Week in some way.
- “The chronic fatigue changed everything…I now make a point of really looking after myself – especially now that I’m over 40!”
- “exercise most days and then…at least walk the dogs in the afternoon.”
- “I find I cope with my workload better when I’m on top of all that stuff”
- “Had the best time, crammed in non stop sight seeing through the states, before some sensational relaxation in this piece of paradise. Loved every second of it.”
To be fair, I haven’t read the entire interview in TV Week, just the part they posted online. This is because I’m in London, not Australia, but if anyone has a copy they want to send me, I’d be happy to have a read. I did read Johanna Griggs tweeted responses on 4th January 2015 about the article in TV Week. She thanked them “for a really lovely and accurate story on my life this week” and even from looking at the part TV Week posted online, you can see that she talks more about her life. The piece is not meant to be about a cure for CFS, but this TV presenter revealing her life. Yet somehow in the hands of the Daily Mail it is ONLY about her beating the illness. In another tweet she was asked if it was a made up interview and she replied that “no its an authorised interview. Just a very overly dramatic cover line that they’ve picked…:)”. She’s referring to the line ‘The moment my life changed forever’. I have to say that I don’t have a problem with that – illness does change us, but again I think it is fair to say that her comment shows that she obviously feels the interview is about more than just her illness.
What about her illness? Well, in a September 2003 interview from Good Medicine Magazine she states that she HAD, not has, but had CFS from 1991-1993 when she was a competitive swimmer. (Overtraining Syndrome anyone? Sorry, I know I’m getting repetitive.) At the time of that interview she had not been exercising for 10 years. There is so much, and I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that no matter what the Daily Mail are trying to imply, Johanna Griggs did not beat her CFS by exercising.
Sun article on Dr Christy Fergusson
The Sun’s article, as you can see from the main image at the top of the page, proclaims in its title Diet was cure for illness that ruined my life. This article is full of the same implications as the Daily Mail one. Dr Fergusson openly talks about her illness saying “I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) when I was 12 years old. It saw me miss loads of school and I was lucky to make it in one day a week. I was just too tired. The condition meant I had problems concentrating, brain fog, headaches, eyesight issues and pain in my joints. School was virtually impossible. I missed out on playing sports, seeing friends and learning. It wasn’t until I started university that it occurred to me my bad diet could be to blame.”
My first observation here is that something has to have changed for her to be well enough to study and get into university. I mean, she was making it into school one day a week and missed out on learning, so there has to have been some improvement in her health before she passed all her exams to even get into university, let alone decide to go.
Well, she states that at university “Not only did I have CFS but I also had bad acne and suffered from bouts of depression.” She says she was mad about junk food, and lists Pot Noodles and chocolate as a couple of examples. This is when she gradually changed her diet and her health improved.
At the bottom of the Sun article there is information on how you can buy Dr Fergusson’s ‘New Me Diet’ (with a £10 discount for Sun readers). Nowhere in the article does she say that her diet will cure you from CFS. The same is true for her website. But when you’re talking about how changing your diet changed your own health and there is a caption under one of her pics in that article clearly stating “Christy beat CFS by changing her diet”, then you are misleading people.
I want to clearly say that I’m not disputing that Christy Fergusson had CFS, I’m not even disputing that she got better. People do get better. I got better once myself and as my doctor told me at that time “We don’t know why your health is improving” because I was not doing anything different. I am extremely happy that diet was such a major factor in her improvement (although as stated above, I believe she may have already started to show improvement if she made it to university in the first place). But this is not the case for everyone. These illnesses are complicated in the way that they work, and also people who become ill when they are teenagers have a different recovery rate than say someone who becomes ill when they’re in their 30s or 40s. These types of articles don’t even bother to give a complete image of the illnesses. They just name them and then continue to shame those that are not better with their ridiculous implications that simple changes like diet and exercise are complete cures.
What annoys me is that this idea that if CFS sufferers just eat well, they’ll get better, is dangerous thinking. Also, the whole fallacy is being perpetuated in order for Dr Fergusson, the food psychologist, to sell her diet! The majority of chronically ill (ME, CFS, RA, FM, Lupus, BPD, Cluster Headaches and more) people that I know eat very healthily. Admittedly none of them are university students, but for one reason or the other junk food is just not an option. We all know that when your body is struggling anyway, it only makes sense to put good, healthy food into it. I can name among these people vegans, vegetarians, people who only eat organic fresh food, those following diets advised by nutritionists and so on. I’ve recently gone gluten free and yes, it’s helped with several of the symptoms related to my digestive system, but am I cured? Not yet. In fact, I think I will talk about this diet related topic in a later post.
I am annoyed with the medical establishment for not diagnosing people properly, because there is still so much confusion about what people have and do not have, so CFS, ME and other ‘unexplained’ symptoms all get lumped together, so when someone miraculously gets better, it reflects on everyone else whether we have the same thing to begin with or not. You have celebrities trying to progress their careers or sell products by any means necessary, and too often this ends up being by giving the rest of us a bad name. Like we’ve seen in these cases, we have these bloody news reports blatantly pushing their own agenda to show that CFS, ME or whatever the hell else they’re calling it on any given day, can be so easily cured if only sufferers were not so lazy or so greedy. The drivel they print is a drive by shooting on all sufferers.
Yes it’s the New Year, and yes people are all about exercise and diet at the moment, but can you just leave illnesses like CFS and ME out of it!